a pleasant surprise: 'A New Morning', 9 years on

First of all, there's no saving that artwork, so sorry about that.

But let's get to the heart of the matter - 'A New Morning' isn't terrible. It's not great, don't get me wrong, and very good would even be stretching things a bit. The track selection is all sorts of wrong and sequencing it with the three worst songs they'd ever written kicking things of probably was not the best idea, but somewhere inside all of the mess is the core of what could be a completely solid "back-to-basics" - or, perhaps, attempt at the basics since they'd never really been there - no frills Suede album.

"Positivity" is complete garbage, "Obsessions" reeks of trying-too-hard and "Lonely Girls" is a weak "Young Men" re-hash - not exactly a song screaming out for a sequel to begin with. It's easy to see why, when faced with that opening trio, you might run screaming from the album. (And, truthfully, I did for years. I'm not entirely sure I'd ever given it a complete listen outside of the first time back in 2002.) I'm certainly not claiming that once you make it past those you've found some lost masterpiece. I wouldn't even say that there's any top-shelf material to be found anywhere in the sessions - at best, you get a solid effort or a somewhat lovely number every once in a while.

What I wanted was the last Suede album to not be a complete bust, and with lowered expectations and a little creative editing you can assemble a collection that's not a total embarrassment. Everyone is going to have a different opinion as to what that solution is - personally, I've found "Simon"/"One Love"/"Lost In TV"/"Untitled"/"...Morning"/"Streetlife"/"Astrogirl"/"Instant Sunshine"/"One Hit To The Body"/"Oceans" to be relatively effective.

Backhanded praise if ever there was, but 'A New Morning' doesn't totally suck. Whew.

Now, the real sob story - they got SO much better the following year. Whatever it was, when it came time to assemble some new songs for the 'Singles' collection, they really got their shit together and delivered a few 100% Suede classics. "Attitude" is an amazing single that can proudly sit with their best and the stomping "Love The Way You Love" is even better - it's a shame they had run out of steam by the time the collection had come out as it never got its chance to shine, I've always imagined it a great double a-side with "Music Like Sex". If you take the songs that started to appear at the end of the line, you'd have a really strong core for LP6.

But it was not to be. They had tested their fan base's patience a little too much and it was time to retreat into the shadows. I'm not entirely sure how The Tears and the solo albums got so effed up when the final Suede songs were so strong, but that's another discussion altogether.

I was totally on the fence about getting this collection, as I'm sure many are. Truthfully, the only reason I got it was for the "Golden Gun" and "Love The Way You Love" demos - well, that and the ever-present specter of "completion". In the end, it was probably the most eye-opening and worthwhile of the reissues for me as it totally changed my mind about the album. (Yes, I had revelations about the first two LPs as well but I always at least kind of liked them.) So well played, boys. Well played.

This was a blast. Who wants to go through their catalog next so we can do it all again. (Blur? Catherine Wheel? Please?)

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